“You look beautiful, Mummy,” said my daughter. At that moment in time, I wasn’t doing anything special. I had shoved a hat on top of my un-brushed hair, grabbed my keys and smiled at her because she looked adorable in her new bobble hat. That’s what she saw, that I was smiling at her. She didn’t notice the lines around my eyes or how weak I’d gotten. When she looked at me, she saw a smile and decided that I looked beautiful. I wished that I could see myself the way that she did.
When I became a parent, my eating disorder didn’t magically disappear. When she was a baby and I was home alone with her, there was no one to check up on me, no one to HAVE to eat in front of. It was very easy to carry on with my behaviours behind the scenes. As she got older, I had to consider the fact that I didn’t want it to be normal for her to be eating and for me not to be. I tried to plan my intake so that I would eat at meal times, with her, even if it was something small. I didn’t want her to notice. I didn’t want to pass on my behaviours to her.
I spent a long time channelling my thoughts into getting better for her. I thought that I could use her as my motivation and it would make it easier, but it didn’t. I spent a lot of time feeling guilty and like I had let her down. In retrospect, I’ve learned that I had to want to recover for myself, and that in turn, I would be doing what’s best for my daughter. Anyone who suffers from an eating disorder knows that it’s all well and good to say these things, but that putting them into practice is a different thing entirely.
For me, recovery isn’t a challenge with an end game; it’s a choice I make every day. It’s scary and overwhelming and living life without the comfort blanket that is my eating disorder isn’t easy. I still consider myself ‘in recovery’, and there’s a possibility I might always be. Something that longstanding, that is so ingrained in you, doesn’t go away overnight. However, I have to fight, and I have to keep fighting, knowing that it’s the best thing to do for everyone, including myself.
I hope my daughter never feels the way I do about myself. I hope that she continues to see the good in others as well as the good in herself. I hope that my struggles don’t impact her in any way. I hope she realises that she is so much more than what she looks like and that she can appreciate herself and love herself just the way she is, and if smiling is beautiful, well, we’ll just have to keep on smiling.